The Top 5 Beaches Around Lisbon
You won't find the warm waters of the Med here, or the hoards of sunburnt tourists that permanently feature on those shores in the summer months. You will find water-beaten pinnacles and rising cliffs; a surfer's paradise of cold and choppy ocean that makes your eyes water; and long stretches of deserted, white sand, surrounded by quaint white-washed houses and family-run restaurants serving up the catch of the day.
If you're visiting Lisbon then you should absolutely take a day or two to visit the coastline to the west of the city. My advice would be to aimlessly hop from beach to beach, uncovering one delight after another, but if you want to pinpoint your adventure and leisurely bathe on the cream of the crop, here are my picks (please don't take it personally if I didn't feature your favourite beach; I only had a few days to explore around Cascais):
1. Azenhas do Mar
This was the first beach that we stumbled upon and we were not disappointed. A clustering of whitewashed houses sit on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The people:beach ratio was a bit high. I guess this was due to the (relatively) calm waters, the kiddies paddling pool and the stunning setting.
So stunning in fact that we decided to dine in the restaurant that takes the same name as the beach. White wine and gambas whilst overlooking the ocean – the perfect way to start the day!
Best for: photo opportunities and beachside dining
How to get there: take the train from Lisbon to Sintra. In Sintra, take bus 440 or 441 to Azenhas do Mar. For more details on the timetable, click here.
2. Praia da Ursa
We came across this beach completely by chance as we careered along the winding road that leads to Cabo de Roca (the most westerly point in mainland Europe). We saw the sign and decided to explore, which was by far the best decision we made that day.
Praia da Ursa is spectacular, but you’ll have to work to get there – there’s a 20-30minute walk down loose rock. However, this arduous task keeps out hoards of people and young children. You can’t quite make out the beauty of this stretch of coast until you’re a third of the way down the cliff. This mounting anticipation really adds to the satisfaction of getting there. There are zero amenities, so be sure to take everything you need, including plenty of water for the trek back up!
There are quite some nudists on this beach. One 60+ suntanned and salty man took it a bit far - he would walk to one end of the beach and back again, repeatedly, making a point to stare into my eyes every single time. This wouldn’t have felt so probing if he hadn’t been naked.
Best for: isolation and dramatic scenery
How to get there: take the train from Lisbon to Sintra. In Sintra, take bus 403 towards Cabo da Roca. You'll have to walk the last mile or so down the road. The beach is signposted so keep a lookout! For more details on the timetable, click here.
3. Praia Grande
This is a super long stretch of beach, hence the name Praia Grande. After the remoteness of Praia da Ursa, Grande felt a little bit claustrophobic and we didn’t stay too long. Just long enough to fit in a couple of games of beach tennis and check out the surfers.
This kind of beach isn’t really my cup of tea, but I know plenty of people who would have loved the chaos, using it as an opportunity to people watch. Everything you could possibly need for a day on the beach is within a 100m radius, so it’s possible to spend the whole day here, migrating from freshly squeezed juices and ice creams, to ice cold beers.
Photo credit: Visit Portugal
Best for: people watching and surfing
How to get there: take the train from Lisbon to Sintra. In Sintra, take bus 441 to Praia Grande (approx 25mins). For more details on the timetable, click here.
4. Praia do Guincho
This is another popular spot for surfers, kitesurfers too. If you want to take some lessons, this might be the place. It’s not as busy as Praia Grande, so there are less people to laugh at your epic fails on the board.
Praia do Guincho was used in the opening scene of the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As you master the waves you can pretend you’re the man himself with the wind in your hair, against a beautiful backdrop of deep blue sky and white sands.
Photo credit: Faraj Prakoso
Best for: surf/kitesurfing lessons and dreamy sunsets
How to get there: take the train from Lisbon to either Sintra . From either location, take bus 405 or 415 to the beach. Praia do Guincho is also just a 30minute bike ride from Cascais, which is beautiful and free! For more details on the timetable, click here.
5. Praia da Adraga
The red flag was up the day that we were there and the lifeguard was getting increasingly irritated as teenage boys heeded the flag’s advice and ran into the raging water.
This beach really is beautiful and worth visiting, despite the strong currents and high waves. Tall cliffs line the back of the beach, and rocks jut up out of the ocean to create a stunning setting.
There’s a restaurant, car park and public toilets, but this spot is a little bit more out of the way, so it’s not completely packed with people.
Photo credit: Lisbon Senses
Best for: everything but swimming
How to get there: take the train from Lisbon to either Sintra or Cascais. From either location, take bus 403 to Almoçegem. From this town you'll have to get a taxi, or be prepared to have a nice walk. For more details on the timetable, click here.